A Puddle of Puppies~

One thing I knew for certain after our dog, Kashá, died: We needed a puppy. Not a puppy to replace our dog–because there is no replacing her–but a puppy to help fill the gaping hole left behind, and to staunch the tears. A puppy to remember that life goes on after loss and that an open heart can love again.

At first we considered a Boxer because we need a watch dog, and Kashá was the best. When she was on duty no one came into our yard without being cleared by one of us. This area of Costa Rica… well, actually, all of Costa Rica is quite dangerous. Once, while sitting in a small Italian restaurant in San José, I watched a woman come out of her place of work, pop open the trunk of her car and inspect the contents before closing it again and driving off. As I sipped my glass of wine I realized she was probably looking for a stow-away, someone she might inadvertently take inside her barred and gated compound where he would then rob her and her family, or worse. The papers and local news are full of these sorts of stories. Here in Talamanca, we do not have walls around our house, or even bars on our windows. We have dogs. They are our security system and are well worth the cost of dog food and veterinary care. And we love them.

We looked in the paper for Boxers and found a couple of ads, but when the owners sent pictures the dogs were too stocky for our taste, resembling more bulldog than the leggy Boxers we have seen. We also read that they tend to be aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. That ruled out a male, as we have two older males on the place already. They had a female, but by then I’d found an ad for Basenjis.

I have always wanted a Basenji. They are odd ducks of the dog world (excuse the mixed metaphor), more like cats than dogs, really. Descended from pariah dogs of Africa, they have been man’s companions since ancient times. Originally from the Congo, they were used by Pygmy tribesmen as hunting partners, flushing out small game into waiting nets. They also appear in murals from the time of the Pharaohs. Some argue the god Anubis is actually a Basenji. In any event, Basenjis are an old breed.

We went to see them on a Saturday morning and I was completely smitten. The breeders, the only breeders in Costa Rica, had four pups–three males and one female– and both parents for us to see. The owner let the mother out of her pen so she could take the little guys for an exercise run. Resembling an inflated balloon that’s been released, she ran in wild circles with the four pups hard on her heels. By the time our visit was over we’d picked out two. But Basenjis don’t bark, so what kind of watch dog would this make?. They make plenty of other noises, I’ve found out since, but barking isn’t one of them.

The next day, Sunday, we went to the animal adoption fair held every week at a central park in San José. The organization, started by an incredible American woman, Karin Anne Hoad, is called Asociación Animales de Asis and rescues street dogs of Costa Rica. They do not put down any of the animals they rescue and have developed a relationship with the veterinary school to get all the animals spayed or neutered. Volunteers help socialize the dogs and they have found homes for dogs with cancer, dogs with only three legs, and, most incredibly, a dog that had most of the top of his head chopped off with a machete. The dog was actually at the park with his new owners the day we were there. His head is a bit scarred, but he is a very happy, functional dog.

There were quite a few older dogs there, and I was attracted to a female Shar Pei mix. She was tough looking with broad scars across her chest. I asked about her and was told she was found wandering the streets in a badass section of San José. I watched her for awhile; she seemed friendly and eager with each person who came by her cage. I was about to go over and visit her when one of the volunteers set down a crate of puppies next to me. There were two pups, one black with a long tail and another, tan in color, leggy, and droopy ears. Her face looked very Lab-like and I asked if I could look at her. I picked her up, and that’s the one we arranged to take home the next day. I was going to name her for the park where we got her: Sabana, and call her Saba for short, but then remembered that there is a feminine hygiene napkin by that name. So… she became Hale (pronounced Holly)

They tried to get me to take the Shar Pei, but, feeling a bit like the little old man and the little old woman in Wanda Gag’s old children’s book Millions of Cats, I decided that three puppies was enough. I was also concerned that the Shar Pei might be TOO friendly and we needed a watch dog.

Monday morning we picked up the street dog and one of the Basenjis. The little female we named Bibi, African for Lady.
I’d had a sleepless night the night before, wondering what I had got us into. Maybe the Basenjis were a mistake. Maybe they were too hard to handle. I’d read about them online the night before. Fox like in appearance, Basenjis grow to be about 16-20 inches tall and are quite independent thinkers. Smart and with “the attention span of a gnat,” as one Web site put it, they can be a handful in the wrong household. Anyone looking for a dog that immediately follows commands ought not even look at a Basenji. They tend to be somewhat like terriers, I think: out to please themselves. The best match, according to everything I read, is someone who has had a lot of dogs, is not Alpha-challenged, and is ready to find a fun way for the dog to learn. The best technique with them, I read, is to ignore them. They thrive on affection and cannot stand being given the cold shoulder.

By Monday morning I figured I could handle one. Later, if they weren’t all sold, and I liked the dog, I reasoned, I’d get the other. Alan and I drove home with two puppies and all their gear.

Since then we acquired the other Basenji, the little male we call Chacho, and I am busy from about five in the morning until seven at night.

A tired Basenji is a good Basenji, is one of the cardinal pieces of advice I’ve gotten.

I’m giving it my best shot!

Published by SC Morgan

I grew up in Oregon and learned not everything is black and white. Now I live in the jungles of Costa Rica where the shades of gray cover the full spectrum. I shoot my mouth off on my blog, social media sites, and sometimes I get published. You can find my blog here: https://scmorgancom.wordpress.com/

9 thoughts on “A Puddle of Puppies~

  1. Oh goodness me Sarah – that last photo it just devine. Wow, will you have your hands full, and don’t they know it. I can almost see them hatching mischief in their sleep. Puppy heaven at your place- from their perspective anyway! I am excited for you -I think this lot will be more than happy to love and protect you. Dear Kasha is probably rolling her eyes at your work load, wishing you the best of luck from wherever departed doggies go!!


  2. hi – I found it very interesting that there is a breeder of basenjis in Costa Rica – please, do you have a pedigree for the puppies as I would love to know the names of the parents – I also have basenjis and live in Denmark – your pups are so sweet as is the mix you also have …. regards, Pia


  3. Hi Pam. Yes, the puddle of puppies is pretty special. Everytime we walk out into the potrero, we walk by Kasha’s grave. I always see her running out to attcak and show the wee ones who’s REALLY in charge. Thanks for the visit to my blog Pia. and it’s nice to be in contact with a fellow basenji enthusiast. You do have some wonderful looking animals on your Web site. I enjoyed taking a look!Love those Pharaoh hounds!


  4. Hi there, Sarah,Just love the “sleeping dogs” photograph! Basenjis are wonderful looking dogs, and little Hale is a sweetie too. You’ll be having fun learning about the individual personalities of the dogs. That’s a voyage of discovery. How’s the toilet-training coming along? I was so fortunate with little Cailean. (Though this morning he’s being difficult, I’m sure he needs to pee, but he walked out into the mist, looked around, and walked back without peeing, then went back to my bed. I guess he’s waiting for the sun to burn the mist off.)You have the new pups. I have a new great niece, my sister is a granny for the first time. The little one was named … Morgan … which you will agree is a fine name!Well, time for my morning coffee. Congratulations on the puppies, and watch out for what someone I know used to call their “land mines” on the lawn.R.


  5. Hi Ross– I had to laugh. The “toilet training” is going great, as in, that’s the only place they don’t crap. This morning I came out to find three happy, tail-wagging puppies and four piles of shit on the tile porch. It was my own fault, though. I slept in this morning until 5:30.We are fortunate, though. They can be outdoors here, so my hardwood floors have had a minimum of damage. There has been the occasional accident when they come inside in for a visit, but not bad considering there are three of them. The lawn is now blooming bright green where I have washed dog manure into the soil so not to be stepping in their “land mines.” Mostly though, if I get up early enough, like before light–5 a.m. (FIVE A.M.!) I can get them to do their business out in the potrero. I carry little bits of desiccated liver in my pockets and each morning I make a run for the potrero. Three little dogs stretch out behind like streamers and we don’t stop until we are on the other side of the “yard” fence.As they pee, I tell them what good dogs they are and give them bits of liver. Yum!. Today, Bibi went out there by herself to do her business. I think we are making headway… They are quite the pack and, as you say, they definitely have their own personalities. Nose kisses are the best!s


  6. You asked for it! But I can see why. Trice blessed! They are beautiful pups. The last picture is particularly captivating. Could probably win a prize of some sort.Enjoy. Looking forward to hearing more.


  7. Hi Sarah,The treat and high praise when they “toilet” in the right place is the way to go. I keep special doggy chocolate buttons, very small things the pet store bags itself from bins, and even now when Cailean “asks” to go out without my prompting he does get the choccie when we come inside. On our regular walks he just gets lots of “what a good lad!” … I daren’t say “good boy” because I tend to say that in passing (as do others) and don’t want him thinking “good boy” is the cue to toilet. We’ve had three days of very nearly blazing sunshine and have been over at Gavin’s where Cailean can run about in the fenced garden. Gavin gave Cailean a full-sized rubber (soccer) ball for his birthday. Cailean is very wary of it, it’s taller than he is!R.


  8. Oh, how amazingly adorable. You will be busy!Needless to say we never made it to Costa Rica. Went for 5 days to Florida instead. Easier, closer and good for shorter trips. Maybe next year.


  9. Love Basenjis, and had a female ‘Ziggy’ when I lived in Montreal. Sometimes they act like terriers but never forget they are hounds. Although they have assorted vocal sounds, they can be quite nasty when aroused. Patience and perseverance are best used when training Basenjis. Never under estimate their intelligence.


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